Obligatory Downton Gushing

It being Sunday night, aka Downton Abbey Night, and me having resisted this temptation in previous weeks, I’m going to take the easy road and devote a post to Downton Squeeing.

Big developments this week?  I found myself, for the very first time, actually kinda liking Branson.  Granted, he’s still a dolt who makes some really poor choices, but his admission to feeling bad watching that family’s house burn made me think more of him than ever before.  Of course, he undoes a lot of this by, y’know, running off ahead of his pregnant wife and not having told her about attending meetings where violence was planned (not to say I’m not sympathetic with the Irish cause, just sayin’ that not letting your wife in on the details is not cool).

I’m also strangely not annoyed with Isobel these days, which is a welcome change from last season.  I greatly appreciate her holding her tongue regarding Ethel’s choice (thinly veiled though that cover was).

Then there’s Ethel herself.  It’s not that I don’t feel bad for her situation, but I’d feel it more keenly if I’d liked her more to start with, which I didn’t.  So.  That said, her kid is going to be in for a world of therapy unless his fabulous Grandpapa succumbs to heart disease and leaves him with only the influence of his wimpy Grandmama.

I’m still basking in relief about Mrs. Hughes’s all-clear on that cancer scare.  Last season I was complaining about her not getting screen time, and I think that cancer thing was aimed at me to stop complaining.  Needless to say, I’m more than happy to have that woman in her room futzing with a toaster.

Not liking the new footman.  He’s smiley and carved outta cream cheese.  However, even with that, I don’t wish him the evil about to befall him being the object of Thomas’s attention.

That leads to my comments on Mr. Carson:  he should have sold the steady-capable guy a little better.  His giving in to every whim of Lady Mary is what brings us Smiley who will only bring chaos downstairs and we all know it.  And this after I thought he had it all together doing that remedial spoon training session.

Daisy needs to look outside the estate for a date.  Really, why feel bad? It’s not that she isn’t getting attention from a footman, she’s just avoiding getting Miss O’Brien as an in-law.  Doesn’t Mrs. Pattmore have some eligible nephews lying around somewhere?

Of course, back above stairs, I’m kind of waiting for Edith to just start, I dunno, shooting things?  Building bombs?  Something crazy.

Mary’s a bit on the dull side this week, as is her mother.

Matthew?  Well, when has someone performing an audit ever been that interesting.  The place is run inefficiently?  NO!  REALLY?!?!?  He shouldn’t have had to sift through the books to find that one out.

Lord Grantham was also not super exciting this week, but, let’s face it, when he is super exciting, it’s usually a bad deal for others (affairs with maids, losing the family fortune….).  Maybe he can get a toaster like Mrs. Hughes.

Of course, The Dowager Countess was in her characteristic fine form.  I had my phone out to tweet some her zingers, but when I had about three in a row from her and couldn’t choose one (though her telling Edith “Stop whining!” was probably the best as far as I’m concerned), I gave up.  The woman makes a great show to a fantastic show.  When are they going to sell What Would The Dowager Countess Do? T-shirts?

And that leave me with Anna and Bates.  Of course, they have never really stopped being my favorite couple, but they returned to the top of the melty-adorable-squee pile with their letter reading this evening.  So many things happen within just an ep or two in this series (Edith’s engaged, Edith’s at the alter-oh-wait-she’s-jilted; The Crowley’s are losing Downton, oh-wait, now there’s Reggie Swires dinero to bail them out…), how the hell come is it taking so long to FREE BATES?!?!?!?!?


Five Purse Rants

I am on a mission to find the perfect purse/handbag for my upcoming trip.  I’ve been on this quest for about 3 weeks and I really don’t understand why makers of women’s handbags don’t just read my mind and make what I want.

Let’s start with what I want to carry:  two relatively thin magazines, small notebook, a ballpoint pen, a trade paper-back, my phone, my passport, my keys, a hanky, money, credit cards, and an iPod nano.  This is slightly more than I usually carry, and the magazines are what’s really keeping my current purse out of the running in the area of size.  The hope is to have something smaller than my backpack in which everything I could really want to access during a long flight is included.  I want my backpack in the overhead, and this under the seat so as to free-up foot room for me.

I’d hoped to find something relatively flat, that hands vertically more than horizontally.  This is rant 1:  Why must so many purses get their room from lying horizontally?!?!?  This makes for a really awkward bag, in my opinion.  When you’re walking through a crowd, rather than having something that matches to your side, you now have this extraneous mass both for and aft of you to get in the way and inadvertently smack other travelers.  Fail!

When you do find one that hangs horizontally, they usually aren’t quite big enough for the magazines I’m looking for.  They are either too narrow (a little horizontal is okay, guys, really!), or they are a little too shallow in their length. They usually aren’t off by much, but enough that you’d never get a copy of The Writer in comfortably without completely  mangling the corners and such.  Here comes rant 2:  If you’re going to have a vertical hanging purse, why would you NOT make it big enough for a standard pad of paper or magazine?!?!?  I can think of nothing that fits neatly into these longer-hanging bags that I found.  It sits squarely in the too-small-for-a real-sheet-of-paper.  So if you can’t carry a magazine in it…what the hell is the length for?  You’ve just contributed to the universal bag-fail of  everything winding up at the bottom of a deep pit.  Only in this case, you made the pit deeper with no discernible benefit otherwise.

I reconciled myself to possibly having to move to something less ideal.  More horizontal, perhaps.  And rather than a purse with the built-in organizational compartments for ID, credit-cards, etc, I could possible settle for a less structured bag if I could find a good wallet with a wrist-band that would hold my money, credit-cards and had a place for my cell.  This would allow me to jettison the bag after my flight and go with just the wrist-let and my camera case for outings in my destination.  But this was going into 2 items to buy now, which is where we get rant 3: Price.  Dear Lord.  Nothing is going to make me spend $40 on a wallet with a wrist strap or $90 on a simple cloth bag.  Especially not when the thing is so fugly I’d be embarrassed to be seen with it.  Contributing to the ugliness is rant 4:  Shininess and Bling.  Dude.  I don’t want my purses or wallets to be encrusted in rhinestones, shiny metal ornaments, chains, gold lame, or to be shiny patent leather.  Ugh.

So much looking and failing to find what I liked softened me even to the ugly factor and somewhat to price, but that led to the final straw and rant 5:  Brand name emblems.  I’m highly not impressed by brands.  I don’t know what MK or DB stand for, so having them emblazoned all over the already ugly and less-than-perfectly functional bag is just annoying (and ads to the ugly).  Frankly, if I’m going to be the insane prices for some of this shit, then I feel like I should get a discount for the free advertising these manufacturers and designers get by me walking around with some huge metal decal slapped over the initialed fabric on the monstrosity.

With all the useless purses I’ve seen, you’d think my perfect bag would be there, but I’m fairly sure now that it doesn’t exist.  I’ve got more rants than these (quality of fastening of the straps, type of straps involved, methods of closure…), but with the earlier fails already overwhelming the search, I’m thinking I may have to give up and reconcile myself to the backpack under the seat….


Cammy’s Obligatory Pre-Christmas Rant

You knew this had to happen.  I have to rant about the proliferation of Christmas-crap so long before Christmas.

Christmas ads on TV a week before Halloween?  I walked into one store to contemplate procuring candy corn on the evening of 30 October…and found the Halloween decor already consolidated to 2 aisles (from the 6 there the previous week), and the Christmas seasonal shit full stocked and displayed.

Just today I went out to pick up a few things with my visiting mother and by the end of our relatively short shopping excursion I was already at critical levels on my Christmas music absorption.  One more R&B version of “Let it Snow” and I was going to go postal on the store’s sound system.  I’m going to revise my general feeling about Christmas music from “It shouldn’t be played until after the Thanksgiving meal is consumed” to “It shouldn’t be played until after the Thanksgiving meal is consumed, unless it’s an R&B version of ‘Let It Snow’ in which case it should not be played at all.  Ever.”

It’s not that I hate Christmas.  I love Christmas.  I am ALL ABOUT Christmas (just not the shopping part).  Being a pseudo-almost-Christmas-baby I have embraced the holiday.  But, we get so few real holidays in this country, I hate to see one obliterated by the others.  In this case, the encroachment of Christmas means Thanksgiving gets the shaft.  Other than marking a significant day for the U.S. retail community, and a heinous time for travel, it’s completely overlooked.  I’d love to see it moved to early October, like Canada’s Thanksgiving, although even that is too close to the Halloween juggernaut to ensure the safety of the turkey’s day.

Is it really too much to hope that one day we can regain some ground and get back to appreciating each and every holiday we get?

In Defense of Passive Voice

I’ve had about enough of people going off about the evils of passive voice.

I won’t argue that you can write a more forceful sentence if the actor is not some ephemeral nothing.  There’s a benefit to identifying just who it was that made shit happen, at least some of the time.

But somewhere along the way, a whole plethora of assholes have warped a good rule of thumb into some kind of iron clad directive.  It’s like hard-core religious fanatics who don’t check their theology before going on a crusade.  I can’t tell you how many times the same jack-ass with the vocabulary of a mediocre 5th grader, who can’t compose a 5 line e-mail without at least one error in subject-verb agreement, has proceeded to preach to me about not using the passive voice.

Here’s the thing:  just because it’s passive, doesn’t make it wrong.

Passive voice is a legitimate tool.  A blanket rule against it is just as bad as over-exploiting it.  What if I want to communicate something where the actor is NOT as important as the direct object?  I’m a self-centered, narcissistic bitch and I don’t want to talk about who kicked me, I just want to moan about the fact that I was kicked.  Why should I talk about who did it?  Isn’t enough that I have bruised shins?  Now we have to talk about the jackass that gave them to me?  Sure!  Forget about my pain!  Let’s shine that spotlight on the aggressors of the world and push the people they oppressed to second place in that sentence!  Happy thought.

I’m more than willing to revise passive voice out of what I write, because it’s a crutch that I abuse without realizing, but don’t tell me “it’s wrong.”

At least not until you can figure out when to use “me” “myself” and “I” properly, and sort out how to match the right verb conjugation to the subject.

Cammy’s Paper Rant

I love paper.  Why?  Because words wind up on paper.  And I really like words.  Even when paper doesn’t actually have words, it has the potential to have words.  So I have notebooks galore–notebooks full of total crap I wrote in the 8th grade, notebooks full of information I managed to get out of college with (since, well, large amounts information relevant to evaluating sorting algorithms exists only in those notes…if it’s in my brain, it’s encoded in a different file-format and no longer accessible under Cammy OS 2011), and there are several blank notebooks just waiting to be filled with other words.  And on top of the notebooks there are the scraps.  The folders full of newspaper and magazine articles, post-its with funny quotes…

You get the idea.

But, for all this love of paper…

I mother-f’in HATE junk mail.

And there is SO damn much of it.

From political fliers, to grocery store adds to the NEVER ENDING STREAM OF CREDIT CARD OFFERS.  That last one is a real bitch because, having dealt with the fall out of having a family member’s identify stolen, my family is paranoid about shredding anything and everything financially related.  In fact, my mother shreds anything with our name on it.

It’s insane.  I hauled off a box full of paper that stands 36 inches high, by 8 inches deep and about 24 inches across.  And a full (splitting, heaped up) paper sack of junk mail t0 the recycle dumpster today.  I still have two more paper bags left here, and I managed empty that box, but I’ve nearly got if full again.  And this is just the stuff I’ve ripped names/account numbers off of.  It’s generally about an hour to an hour and a half every week that I spend on the paperchase.  And if I let it go for more than a week?  The time factor is not additive–it’s exponential growth.

And honestly….WTF?  United, Delta and American wouldn’t have to charge everyone for fucking bags if they didn’t spend so damn much on paper and postage to clog my bloody mailbox.   I get shit from United weekly.  And so does my Dad.  And my Mom.  So, every single week, I have to spend time ripping off names to shred, and putting the remainder in the perpetually over-flowing recycle boxes and bags.  Every.  Single.  Week.  I haven’t tracked it to be sure, but I’m pretty sure that some weeks, we get two.  A piece.

And my bank?  With which I have a fight EVER YEAR close to tax time, trying to get my damn 1099 for a savings account (they have yet to actually mail it to me in the past 3 years–I’ve had to go into a physical location every time–yes, I know I should drop them as a bank, but there are other reasons I can’t for the moment)?  Yeah, they manage to, every week, send me these stupid little check things that I have to shred.  Oh, and both my parents get those, too.

I’ve made efforts to stop as much of the shit as I can, but existing relationships with an entity (bank, credit card company, etc.) make it more difficult to get the flow of tree-pulp stopped.

It’s a waste of time, money, resources….and a terrible use of lovely, lovely paper.  All that lovely tree pulp that could be used for words other than “SALE!” or “AIRLINE MILES!” or “BALANCE TRANSFER”.  What a bloody waste!

More Travel B*tching

Cammy has already made a couple of posts about traveling and all the things that drive her nuts about it.  I’m not posting about the costs and bureaucracy and all those things that drive Cammy nuts.  None of those things seem to bother me on the same level that they infuriate Cammy.  What drives me crazy are the people I have to travel with.  On two and a half hours sleep I traveled from Indianapolis to southeastern Virginia.  With a stopover in DC this means two flights:  one about an hour and a half, one just under an hour.  I’m good at sleeping on planes, so that was my plan.  Unfortunately those flights were so short I didn’t get much sleep to speak of.  Which meant I had less patience than normal with humanity.  So here are a few of the travel behaviors that irritate me the most:

1.        Cologne Fiends. Dousing yourself in cologne before flying is in no way a good idea.  Now, I don’t know, it’s possible that you’re going to be traveling for thirty hours like Cammy and without the benefit of your daily shower you’re concerned how you’ll smell afterwards.  Here’s the thing:  contrary to what the musicals tell you, perfume does not cover a stench.  After thirty hours, you’re just going to smell like BO + cologne.  If you want to absorb odors put some baking soda or talcum powder in your pockets or something.  It so happens that I’m allergic to a lot of cologne’s, especially men’s colognes.  But even if I wasn’t, there’s no cologne that smells good that strong.  And, you know, no matter how short the flight, it’s a fair bet that someone on the plane will want to breathe at some point.  Don’t get in their way.

2.       Ass Lady. My second flight was on a tiny school bus sized plane.  When we landed the lady sitting across from me stood up to get situated long before the door was opened.  For some reason she could not figure out how to do this without sticking her ass in my face.  Which was not small.  And judging by the smell, it’s possible she’s got some hygiene issues.  Then she stood there, for like, bloody ever, with her ass in my face.  She could have turned to face the front, pointing her ass down the aisle.  But no.  She kept it in my face.  It’s a wonder it didn’t wind up covered in my vomit.

3.       Seat stealers. Maybe I’m just ordinarily oblivious, but I swear I’ve never seen so many people just taking seats that weren’t theirs and just acting like there’s nothing wrong with it.  On my first flight I heard a guy ask a woman to get out of his seat.  Her response was, “I don’t think it really matters where we sit.”  Um… maybe not, but if that’s not your seat, and the man who booked it wants it back?  Get the heck out of it.  A woman stole my seat on my second flight.  I didn’t make a big deal out of it, seeing as it was only going to be half an hour to forty-five minutes and sitting in the aisle allowed me to extend my busted knee, but seriously?  All she had to do to make me stop directing angry energy at her for the duration was ask, “Oh, do you mind?” Yes, I would have minded, and yes, like a good passive aggressive southern girl I would have pretended I didn’t.  But I would have felt better about the whole thing.

4.       Seat hogs. I’m not talking about on plane behavior here.  I’m talking about people in waiting areas who take one seat for their ass and two for their stuff.  This is quite acceptable when there are plenty of seats, but when you start to notice the seats are all filling up?  Put some of those bags at your feet, jack ass.

The trip wasn’t all bad though.  National Airport does have awesome food courts and there was one right by my gate that supplied me with some California Tortilla action and a good dose of nostalgia.

Obligatory Rant About Time Change

Yes, I know I have an extra hour this weekend, and that, by and large, extra hours are AWESOME, but I loathe time change.

Abhor it.

With a passion.

Every fall and spring I find myself looking at those states like Arizona, who have the good sense not to mess with their clocks, with a bit of envy.  Sure, it’s great in the fall to wake up Sunday and find it’s a whole hour longer, but in your heart you know that in the spring, someone will cruelly yoink it back from you.

And then there’s sleep scheduling.  I’m a creature of habit.  I like consistency.  And even though I get this lovely hour, it’s going to be another 3-4 weeks before my sleep schedule gets back to normal.  I’ll struggle to stay awake until my normal hour, and that will throw everything out of whack.  And while some people may gain some mythical daylight activity out of this shift, I don’t.  I’ve been going to work in the pitch-black dark for quite some time now, and will obviously continue to do so.  I work in a place with no windows.  And there might be a bit more light for my drive home, but in a very short time, that will be gone as well and I’ll be living a life very conducive to a vampire.  Clearly I’m not saving any energy (one of the alleged reasons for the time shifting).

And come spring?  Yeah.  Screw that.  I’d have more than enough daylight even if no one robbed me of that hour, I assure you.  It would be nice if they would at least have the courtesy to take that hour out of a work day, rather than a weekend.  Like a Friday.  Move the clock ahead at 4pm and make it 5 o’clock somewhere, you know?  But no.  They short us on a fun day so that I wind up driving to work facing into blinding sunshine before I disappear into my artificially lit corner of hell.

So little of what many of us do actually depends on real daylight and when it comes to life in an office environment, they continue to burn the same amount of energy because most places don’t shut off the overhead lights in favor of natural light, even when they have the windows to do so.  What’s the point of increasing the annoyance?  Just stick with one or the other already!

Rant over.

Another Rant on a Trivial Subject

I know, I’m full of rants lately.  Maybe it’s the heat?  I’d much rather bring the funny than the ranty, but the funny isn’t coming.  Sad.

Today’s rant is on Facebook posts.

Now not to sound snotty and superior, but I’ve been a facebook member since way back.  Ironically, it was Cammy who coerced me into joining.  Back in the day when it was just college students.  (We were both in grad school and didn’t know a whole lot of other college students).  This is ironic, because Cammy is now afraid of facebook.  Unlike Cammy, I still log in regularly.  But I use it to keep in touch with people and to feed my unfortunate voyeurism streak.  I do not play games, tend virtual farms or use it to support political causes.  I realize different people have different uses for facebook and they have every right to that.

But here’s what drives me absolutely nuts:  The number of rational, intelligent, educated adults I know who think nothing of reposting something just because they saw it on facebook.  Or joining a group just because it sounds good without actually looking into what it’s supporting.  Seriously people?  Back in the day when this particular brand of stupidity manifested in email forwards I spent a lot of time responding with Snopes links.  Now I’ve given up.  I just shake my head and weep for humanity.

Back when I used to teach English Composition to college freshmen I used to insist that they back up all their claims through hard evidence from legitimate sources.  Most of my friends have gone far beyond the level of college freshmen.  So why is it they are unable to live up to the standards I hold my students to?  Particularly in this day and age where researching such things can be done in a second.

The truth is, they could.  They just don’t see that their behavior is unacceptable.  Why should they have to do their own fact checking rather than having information spoon fed?   Google is a wonderful and simple tool people.  So is a brain.